Moderated wiki, Full-time, part-time, or easy?
March 13, 2006 11:26 AM   Subscribe

Is there any wiki software that will allow a moderator to approve edits before they are posted? If so, how difficult would it be to set up and maintain?

I've recently started volunteering with a group of teachers and environmental activist types who want to make a wiki on which students around the world can post about local environmental issues. We have a webmaster who made a (not very good, in my opinion) basic site for us on a volunteer basis. But now that it's a question of setting up a wiki, the webmaster has gotten a little weird.

She's saying that if she makes a wiki, this would be a full-time job for her to set up and maintain, and she would therefore like to be paid on a full-time basis for the forseeable future. Now, I'm not AT ALL opposed to doing some fundraising and hiring a webmaster to help with the site, but this statement of hers seems ridiculous. First of all, if we're going to hire someone, I'd like it to be someone good (this webmaster doesn't know how to set up wikis and is resistant to learning). Secondly, I highly, highly doubt it would be a full-time permanent job (so far we have fewer than one hundred students who will be signing up to contribute). When I balked at what she was saying, the webmaster said to me "well, have you ever set up a web site?" I said yes. "With a database behind it?" I said no. "Oh, I see......."

So now, I'm in charge of researching how to make a wiki and determining what kind of resources we will need. I'm not terribly knowledgeable about setting up sites, but I've read through the many questions on askme about setting up a wiki, and it really doesn't seem that tough. I think I'll recommend PhpWiki (we have server space with Php), and it looks like basically we just need to unzip it in our web server, fill in some details in the .ini file, and customize the look and feel. But I need to know, before I squash the webmaster's hopes of getting full-time wages out of this - is it really as easy as that?

Is there any way that edits could be sent to a moderator for approval before they are automatically posted? I looked through the faq on Phpwiki and didn't see any mention of this feature, and on MediaWiki it was very clear that this cannot be done. Are there any other wikis where it could be done? If so, I could see how the moderation could be a full-time job (but we could share this task among several volunteers), but not the technical part alone.
posted by hazyjane to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
tiki wiki appears to support something like this.
posted by juv3nal at 12:03 PM on March 13, 2006

i think you should try tikiwiki
fairly certain it supports moderating everything
and it is an easy install on any host with fantastico (most)
posted by tysiva at 12:15 PM on March 13, 2006

At the risk of "Answering the wrong question," might I suggest that you think more about whether you really need moderation? Before you scoff, let me try a few angles:

One of the advantage of wikis is simplicity. Introducing moderation seems like it'll make everything much more complicated. It implies user accounts at the least, which is another whole mess to administer (setting up, sending out lost passwords, etc)...

But mainly, it seems counter to the philosophy that makes wikis so cool. Click edit. Change something. Save it. There it is! Neat!

Spam and vandalism are a legitimate worry. But it seems that any wiki thats getting a minimum of attention will be kept clean by its users. Reversing unwanted changes is as easy as reverting to the previous version. (See simplicity, above)

I've spent quite a bit of (not-so) quality time trying to get various people at work to participate in a wiki. For all of the complaining about email's shortcomings, I've found people to be very resistant to give such a simple idea a chance to prove itself.

Have you come across any references to Ward Cunningham? Apparently he's the one to blame for this whole concept of wikis. I've been linking to his original wiki. And he wrote a book about them. I've read it, and recommend it. And they have a list of wiki software that you might want to look into.
posted by gemini at 12:58 PM on March 13, 2006

Best answer: I'm skeptical about a wiki taking up a full-time position. Or even half-time. Set-up can be hairy, depending on the package, but once its up and running, ... you're paying someone to do what -- read it and monitor the sporadic contributions of 100 students?

Maybe you could make it a contract-style job instead of a full position...?

Oh yeah: many wikis have the RecentChanges page available as an RSS feed. So whether or not you do moderation, having the feed up on the screen might make "monitoring the site" a simple thing for someone...
posted by gemini at 1:08 PM on March 13, 2006

I moderate a wiki site on a contract basis (about 10-15 hours a week, including my own contributions and research, as well as monitoring edits, added pages, and comments.) The wiki platform is brand-new -- it was launched a week ago -- and it's ridiculously easy to use. If you want to check it out, you can go to the Wetpaint site (there's a demo you can try and links to the wiki sites they're hosting). I can't really give you any information about how easy it is to set up a wetpaint wiki (I'm not involved in that aspect at all), but someone at wetpaint could definitely answer your questions.

I have to agree with gemini, though -- it's definitely not a fulltime position. Contract is the way to go.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 3:13 PM on March 13, 2006

It may be worth talking to our own RichardP - he has a wiki-spam removal program ("wikiminion", I think) which automatically detects and deletes wiki spam. It's running on the MeFi wiki, for example. This just leaves moderation to be performed by a human.
posted by blag at 3:19 PM on March 13, 2006

Your webmaster has gotten a little weird, indeed. Sounds like she is either wiki-clueless, afraid of being exposed, and is trying to scare you away from the idea, or she's wiki-savvy, knows that it could eliminate the role of webmaster, and is trying to scare you away from the idea.

Either way, I would look elsewhere if you do end up needing help. Though you may not need any at all.

Several wikis I've worked with have been extremely easy to deal with.

There are even some very useful and feature-rich hosted wikis that might suit your purposes. Wikis are distinguished more by their content then by any customized visual design, so unless there's a real need to host your own, why not forgo the installation and administration entirely? Some of these free-to-cheap services are awesome. Check out the pioneering PBwiki, the Instiki-inspired Stikipad, and the aforementioned Wetpaint.

For comparing wikis, both hosted and installable, you can consult the wikimatrix.
posted by Tubes at 4:03 PM on March 13, 2006

I third/fouth/whatever the notion that she's trying to cover for her inadequacy. For someone with reasonable knowledge of the task of webmaster, it should take a few hours at most to set up a wiki. Even if you had never done such a thing before it would be a day at most, unless you are just really incompetant. After that, it more or less just runs itself. So either she's worried that she'll have to track thousands of edits per day, or she's covering for the fact that she has no clue what she's doing.
posted by Rhomboid at 5:11 PM on March 13, 2006

Setting up a wiki is not very difficult, and maintaining one is even easier. You can read a little more about it here.

Also, this link will give you an idea of the exact steps it might require.

The only part of the job that would be full-time is checking edits, and as you'll have a panel of people moderating, the position would be totally redundant.
posted by lhall at 9:55 PM on March 13, 2006

I might look at some of the hosted wiki platforms (Socialtext, JotSpot, and PBWiki come to mind) where you don't have to install anything. Being more consumer-focused, they might have moderation options, and I bet they'll probably cut you a deal as a non-profit, too.
posted by anildash at 11:13 PM on March 13, 2006

« Older i am the ginger beard man!   |   Schlappi? Drogodil? WTF? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.